The Government is extending certain essential skills visas by a year and making the application process simpler while Covid-19 border restrictions are in place.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the move recognised the ongoing labour demand pressures faced by some sectors and skills that existed in the country.
"The Government is making it easier for businesses to continue employing their current migrant workers," Faafoi said.
The announcement comes as farmers rally in 47 towns and cities today as part of Howl of a Protest, which includes calls for visa changes to address worker shortages in the sector and allow dairy workers to stay in the country.
From July 19, the maximum duration of Essential Skills visas, for jobs paid below the median wage, will increase from 12 months to 24 months. The maximum duration for jobs paid above the median wage remains three years.
The application process for Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for workers remaining in their current roles, Faafoi said.
Employers won't be required to complete a labour market test where a worker is applying for a visa for a full-time role which the worker already holds.
These applicants also won't need to provide medical and police certificates to Immigration New Zealand if that information has been supplied previously.
A labour market test will still be required where employers are filling a job vacancy to prove there are no New Zealanders available before a migrant worker can be hired.
The changes complemented the recent extensions for around 10,000 Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment visa holders, Faafoi said.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the changes acknowledged feedback from employers who were desperate to hang on to migrant staff, like dairy farm managers, some who often worked for the same employer for several years on an Essential Skills visa.
"This will provide welcome certainty for those farmers and farmworkers, and adds to the recent border exemption to bring in 200 migrant dairy farmworkers and their families," O'Connor said.
The measures would be temporary and reflected the balancing of New Zealand's economic needs with the Covid-19 health response, Faafoi said.
"Our long-term vision for immigration settings is to grow talent here in New Zealand and build a more self-reliant labour market."
Extending Essential Skills visas to last two years means the new Accredited Employer Work Visa, which was due to come into effect on November 1, would be delayed until the middle of next year. An update will be provided as soon as an exact date is confirmed, Faafoi said.